Jake and Jovanina Linzinmeir say there’s nothing like a busy night in the restaurant business.
“The music’s right and the crowd’s right and the food and drink is right and it creates a vibe with everybody,” Jake Linzinmeir, Co-owner of Jovanina’s Broken Italian said.
“We love a three deep heaving bar and shakers going in the background, people talking to each other,” Jovanina Linzinmeir, Co-owner of Jovanina’s Broken Italian added.
The pandemic brought all that energy to a screeching halt in March, when the Italian restaurant they own in Denver was forced to shut down.
Jake Linzinmeir said, “It’s awful…We can’t do what we do…Everything we love about our business has been taken away.”
Stay at home orders followed by strict capacity limits and the reluctance of people to eat out when some restaurants did reopen have dealt a severe blow to the industry which already operated on thin profit margins. Nearly one in six dining establishments in the U.S. have either closed permanently or long-term.
“It actually makes you kind of sad you know,” Jovanina Linzinmeir said.
“It’s a really tough time for a lot of my friends and colleagues and people I’ve known from the industry for as long as I’ve been in,” Tim Sypasong, Jovanina’s employee said.
Tim Sypasong, an unemployed server, has taken a big financial hit.
“At this point now I’m dipping very hard into my reserves. I’m probably gonna have to apply for even more government programs like probably food stamps,” he said.
Unemployment benefits and federal payments to restaurants and their employees helped cushion the blow earlier this year but many say a new round of stimulus relief is badly needed.
Sonia Riggs, CEO of Colorado Restaurant Association said, “I think overall it’d be very safe to say the government has not done enough.”
Sonia Riggs heads the Colorado Restaurant Association. Some of the 90,000 restaurant workers who’ve lost jobs in her state this year are benefiting from a relief fund her organization helped set up. But she estimates two-thirds of restaurants here will close by next spring if conditions don’t change.
“It’s not only been a very, very tough six months, I’m quite concerned as others are about what winter’s gonna look like for this industry,” Riggs said.
She also worries some people could leave the industry entirely.
“I like honestly don’t really know what else to do. That has been my skill set for my entire adult life,” Sypasong said.
The owners of Jovanina’s feel the same way. They’re rolling the dice and planning to reopen with a focus on take-out and delivery in a few weeks.
Jake Linzinmeir said, “we just want to get it back and going. What that’s ultimately going to look like, we’re still juggling that a bit.”
He says human nature will always be to be together, be social and entertain.
“That’s a big part of our industry in general, making sure we’re there for everybody, like special moments, and making sure they go off without any hitches, so I’m hopeful for the industry,” Charlie Madden, Jovanina’s General Manager said.
“Once it’s safe, we hope it will be normal,” Jake Linzinmeir added.
It’s getting to that point that for many restaurants will be the challenge.